Art in VR
“Masterpieces at MUŻA” brings together Old Master paintings, ranging from the late 15th to the mid-18th centuries, currently on display at Malta’s national community art museum — MUŻA, in Valletta, Malta. The paintings include autograph works by notorious artists Giovanni Baglione, François Boucher, and Claude-Joseph Vernet, and are on a generous long-term loan from an international private collection. The exhibition also features paintings commissioned to Peter Paul Rubens and workshop.
Apart from the physical exhibition a specifically designed VR experiance enables the 13 masterpieces to be enjoyed free of charge in the comfort of one’s home or office, ensuring an intimate and enhanced experience. By employing the power of mixed reality, visitors will be transported to a new world where they can learn through interaction and discovery. The virtual tour is a product of a multidisciplinary approach, combining computer science with the humanities. The VR experience, in particular, is especially alluring to younger generations, introducing them to Renaissance art in an entertaining way.
The aim of this virtual tour is to make art accessible to the masses, especially now more than ever due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Museums were forced to close their doors because of the restrictions, but, thanks to digitisation, anyone can visit the exhibition virtually without the need to leave their house or country. This is a safer, controlled and a more convenient way to experience tangible cultural heritage in the comfort of your own home.
The digitally friendly and easy to navigate Virtual Tour was created by Heritage Malta’s youngest department, and supported by the curatorial team at MUŻA.
The 360 Virtual Tour of ‘Masterpieces at Muza’ was executed using several assets. The initial step was to visit the exhibit and map it out in its entirety in order to plan which panoramas were to be used. The points marked the hotspots needed on a printed floor plan of the exhibit floor, and on the next visit, our team took the photos accordingly. Photographs were taken using a Gigapan, which consists of a device that attaches to a DSLR camera and takes point specific images from a single location at a time. The photos were then stitched using 3D Vista software. A total of 12 panoramas were exported. Apart from the panoramic images, audio guides were recorded in-house, both in Maltese and English, describing each painting and its motive. The audio guides were also made available at the actual physical exhibition by scanning QR Codes located next to each picture. The QR Codes directed the viewer to a web page containing the bi-lingual audio guides, a more thorough description of the painting and a video zooming in on specific features of the artwork at a distance that would not be possible to achieve at the exhibition. The 360 Virtual Tour features hot spots that take you directly in front of paintings, and the pictures are made clickable in order to open an informative video with the audio guide as its sound.
By using the latest state-of-the-art technology in the industry, the Digitisation Unit produced this production entirely in-house, without the involvement of stakeholders. This is what distinguishes our VR experience from other Virtual Reality tours. In addition, this is the first 360 virtual tour of its kind for Malta.
Unlike other exhibitions, the ‘Masterpieces at MUŻA’ virtual tour will not be taken down once the exhibition is over and the paintings are returned to their rightful owner. Instead, the VR experiance will be kept online in order to be enjoyed and experienced in the years to come.